Conservation and Biodiversity

World Population Day and saving species with safe sex

By: Sarah Baillie, Endangered Species Condoms Coordinator, Population and Sustainability Program at the Center for Biological Diversity

Ask anyone what they think is the biggest threat to endangered species and the environment, and you’re sure to hear about fossil fuels, agriculture or pollution. Others might dig deeper and name climate change or habitat loss.

While these are all dire threats, none quite get to the root of the issue.

In truth, the answer is right in front of us, or rather, it is us. All those threats are driven by the 7.5 billion people on the planet. Human population growth ― along with our destructive industrial practices ― is the largest threat to wildlife and the environment.

We’re the common denominator.

That’s because every person needs food, water and shelter, which requires space and resources that wildlife also depend on. And in many countries, particularly in the United States, our demands on the planet go far beyond those basic needs.

As our population grows, we’re increasingly crowding wild places, and it’s taking a toll. According to a recent scientific report from the United Nations, 1 million species are threatened with extinction.

Thirty years ago, the United Nations designated July 11 World Population Day to raise awareness about the urgency and importance of population issues.

Population pressure is a huge issue, but the solutions already exist. Universal access to reproductive healthcare, comprehensive sex education and empowerment for women and girls are the easiest and most just ways to address population growth.

But ensuring everyone has access to these rights can only happen if people are aware of the problem.

That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity, where I work, decided to bring population back into the environmental conversation. And what better way to raise awareness about human population growth than by giving people a way to prevent it?

So we started handing out condoms.

Our Endangered Species Condoms come in colorful packages with punny rhymes about endangered species, such as: “Wrap with care, save the polar bear” and “Fumbling in the dark, think of the monarch.” They’re great icebreakers to introduce people to the topic of how human population growth takes an enormous toll on wildlife.

This year, for World Population Day, we’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Endangered Species Condoms project and giving away our 1 millionth condom.

That’s 1 million conversations about how safe sex can save wildlife and about the importance of everyone having the education and resources to make the right reproductive plan for themselves.

We’re also launching a contest on Twitter where people can submit their ideas for a new condom slogan.

And we’ve joined advocates from around the world in calling on leaders, policymakers, grassroots organizers, institutions and others to help make reproductive health and rights a reality for all.

We need to make major changes if we’re going to reverse that damage that’s been done so far and halt the immense loss of wildlife and their habitats.

You can help by keeping population in the conversation. If you would like to receive Endangered Species Condoms to share with your community you can sign up here